The Big Broadcast of 1938 (1938)

Article 3616 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-24-2011
Posting Date: 7-9-2011
Directed by Mitchell Leisen
Featuring W.C. Fields, Martha Raye, Dorothy Lamour
Country: USA
What it is: Musical comedy revue

A ship called the S.S. Gigantic has a new-fangled electrical engine. It is in a race from New York to Cherbourg against another ship called the S.S. Colossal.

The electrical apparatus aboard the Gigantic is the science fiction content to this movie, but given the musical-comedy nature of the movie, this content (and the plot) are of minimal importance. W.C. Fields gets top billing here, and he’s fine, though this is far from his best effort; he mostly sticks to very familiar shtick. The most significant role next to Fields’s is Bob Hope’s, but, as this was only his first feature-length film, he only gets sixth billing. Except for a short war-time documentary, this would be the only time these two comedy giants would work together, but anyone hoping to see how these two would interact will be disappointed; I only noticed them together in one scene, and that’s a crowd scene that gives them no real opportunity to even acknowledge each other’s existence. Bob Hope does fine, however, as does Martha Raye as Fields’s accident-prone daughter. The only other really familiar name is that of Dorothy Lamour, who here plays Hope’s girlfriend who ends up falling for the inventor of the electric apparatus. It’s a bit of fluff overall, and, of the musical numbers, my favorite features some animation of a “ripple”; I’m not sure who is responsible for this bit, but this sequence was produced by Leon Schlesinger.


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